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Ultraviolet Awareness Month – The Sun and Your Eyes


By now, most Americans are familiar with the threats of Ultraviolet (UV) light to your skin, (including sunburn and skin cancer) and the need for using sunscreen and using other forms of sun protection during outdoor activities. What is less known is that UV and other types of radiation from the sun can also cause severe damage to your eyes.

If you tend to face the sun without sunglasses, think about this: Frequent exposure to the sun's UV radiation has been linked to damage to the eye.

Risks of UV Eye Exposure

Exposure to large levels of UV over a short interval can lead to photokeratitis or a ''sunburn on the eye'', leading to pain, blurry vision or even temporary vision loss. Long-term UV exposure can cause more serious eye diseases including cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, all of which can be a threat to vision. Just like the real thing, tanning beds present a serious risk of overexposure to UV.

UV Eye Protection

For proper ultraviolet protection, sunglasses should block 100 percent of ultraviolet radiation. Look for shades that specify they are ''UV 400'', which indicates that they block all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers (which includes both UVA and UVB rays, both known to enter the atmosphere).

The size of your sunglasses is also important. Wraparound sunglasses can prevent harmful ultraviolet rays from coming in through the backside of the sunglasses.

Individuals whose work or recreation involves extensive exposure to sunlight are at the highest risk for damage to their eyes. UV can be reflected from areas such as snow, water, and white sand and presents the greatest threat during the midday hours and during the summer months. UV radiation levels increase as you get closer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's recommended that you consult with an eye care professional and to be aware of the hazards of UV exposure. Simply putting on your sunglasses can make a world of difference for your precious eyes.